Once again, we have an egregious example of the worthlessness of the current system of civilian complaints against police in Ontario. Police are not policing themselves: they are pleasing themselves.
I have blogged before about the case of Paul Smith, an Ottawa activist forced to the ground at a demonstration after an improper arrest, handcuffed, and then repeatedly Tasered when he refused to get up and walk to a waiting police vehicle.
His saga has been a long one. His initial complaint to the Ottawa Police Services Board was dismissed out of hand. Going limp, he was told, was active resistance, and "pain compliance" was justified. He appealed to the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services, which, unusually, determined that his case had merit. But OCCOPS assigned Robert Fitches, a retired police officer, to adjudicate the case--so much for "civilian review."
Fitches had quite the case before him. The police videotape, oddly enough, was missing precisely those few seconds in which Smith had been Tasered. The police camerawoman claimed that she had simply been "repositioning herself." But an independent cameraperson captured the moment on film, forcing Fitches to concede that excessive force had indeed been used. He noted that the film had been "instrumental" in his findings, and that it directly contradicted police testimony. He did his best with intractable material, though. Only one of the two officers involved in the incident was found guilty, Constable Paolo Batista, the officer who actually used the Taser on Smith. The other officer who was holding him was acquitted.
Yesterday, it was time for Constable Batista's sentence. A reprimand. Yup. Must have stung. Fitches claimed that the use of the Taser was "not gratuitous" and that there had been no intent to harm Smith, just to gain control over him (as he lay on the ground in handcuffs). It was just a "mistake," declared this former Ontario Provincial Police officer. It was done in the "heat of the moment." "Anyone can make a mistake," he said. He sounded for all the world like a judge presiding at an honour killing trial. Besides, Batista lost his rank of acting sergeant but was demoted to constable, and that cost him $10,000, and that should count for something.
I blogged earlier about a case in Toronto, in which a uniformed thug viciously assaulted a Somalian without cause, and then used the old "resisting arrest" ploy. The man was facing jail time and deportation until a videotape surfaced. The officer, who with his buddies was castigated by the judge for lying, covering up and abuse of power, was convicted--and given a thirty-day sentence, immediately denounced as "Draconian" by his police association.
No wonder police increasingly believe they are a law unto themselves. Ottawa has seen some horrific incidents of late, and they are continuing. The price of complaining can even be, as the previous link indicates, losing one's job. The complaints system itself is a virtual whitewash--a farce, in fact, not to put too fine a point upon it, with fewer than one per cent of complaints upheld, not to mention years of frustration for complainants brutalized by police. The most recent case: a businessman who dropped his kid off at school, admittedly in a no stopping zone, was followed to his place of work by a police officer, and ended up in hospital with a fractured rib and a bruise on his face. He's since been charged (surprise, surprise) with "resisting arrest."
I can just smell more reprimands coming--can't you?
And now, perhaps emboldened by the impunity principle that seems to attach to police officers in 21st century Ontario, Ottawa cops want to enter municipal politics. It's enough to make one believe in slippery slopes.